Wendy Bellack-Viner has been connected to Reena in one way or another since she was a teenager. She first came to work at Reena in the 1970’s as a summer student. While she was only in high school, Wendy recalls Reena’s office at Finch Avenue and Dufferin Street as a busy place with Sandy Keshen and her team building the organization and putting a lot of effort into getting individuals with diverse abilities out of institutions.
Fast forward a few years, and Wendy says her son, Dan, then a high school student, was looking for a charity to work with and she connected him with Reena. Dan Viner’s involvement did not end there. Dan and several of his friends went on to co-chair Rebounds for Reena, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament that raised funds for Reena’s Respite and Enrichment programs. The event ran successfully for several years raising some $70,000. Not only was the event a new way to engage and connect with young professionals, but it also brought Wendy back to Reena. “If he hadn’t of done Rebounds for Reena,” says Viner, “I don’t think I would have become involved (with Reena) again.”
In yet another connection with Reena, Wendy was introduced to past Reena Board Chair Carolynn Morrison after Morrison had written a beautiful tribute to Wendy’s uncle, Norman Levine, a paediatric dentist who worked with many Reena supported individuals, including Carolynn’s son. Dr. Levine took on patients with difficult cases. “Not many dentists wanted to take on people with developmental disabilities because of behavioural issues,” says Wendy, “…and they had unique dental profiles …so he decided to make it part of his professional work.” He also worked with Indigenous people, she says, and was awarded the Order of Canada for his work in both those areas.
Wendy once again connected with Reena and began to work with Carolynn on Reena’s government relations committee…and the rest is history; a year later, Wendy joined the board and today Wendy Bellack Viner sits as Chair of Reena’s Board of Directors. “There is something about Reena,” says Viner, “that is just really amazing.” Wendy says Reena is all about opportunity. “Giving opportunity to individuals who would not have the opportunity without Reena, those for whom it’s much more challenging to have those opportunities.” Wendy says Reena also brings a lot of people the opportunity to experience joy, “By giving them the opportunity to be a part of the community, the opportunity to grow, to be employed, to be part of society in a way that they may not otherwise have been able to do.”
Upon reflection, Wendy Bellack Viner Wendy says the pieces all came together to bring her to her current position. As Chair of Reena’s board Wendy says the work they are doing is ambitious. “Bryan is many miles ahead of the rest of us in his vision. He sets high standards. So, if we can continue along that path that would be a great thing.”